Friday, March 25, 2005

Make Your D2DVD Script a Movie

Here's my top ten ways to move your D2DVD script to the top of the heap...

-- Come up with a great concept and be able to pitch it in one 30 word or less sentence. Be clear, concise and show conflict. Make it something so cool and original (and yet universally understood) that everyone who hears it says, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

--Come up with a great title that identifies and promotes the key concept of the movie. I've already written about this so look it up...

--Take the cliché’ and twist, twist, twist it until you get all the juice your movie needs. If you’ve seen the scene before in another movie, don’t you think your audience has as well?

--Write a script that can be produced. If it can’t be produced it won’t be, no matter how great the story. That means:

No longer than 90 pages
No more than 4 locations, one of which takes 45 pages of script
No more than 8 people in the cast (leads and supporting)
No more than 20 extras who can be reused / disguised
No CGI if you can help it. Think of simple, effective, in-camera FX

--Enter late and leave early for every scene. Don’t tell us that you’re off to go kill someone, just cut to the kill. This philosophy gives your scenes energy and speed. You only have 90 pages, so why not pack it with story instead of drawn out scenes? Time is your enemy. Time creates boredom. So move, move, move…

-- Use every visual trick at your disposal like dissolves, time cuts, jump cuts, inter-cutting, angles and lighting. All this starts with the script. Come up with cool, new (low budget) ways to give each scene color, movement, vitality and perspective. Otherwise, why bother?

-- That said, don’t identify each and every shot. This will piss off your director. Lead him in the direction you want him to go, but don’t hold a gun to his head and force him there. Let him think he thought of it. If he/she is any good, they’ll pick up on your lead and add to it.

-- Don’t fall into the dialogue trap. Actors don’t need dialogue to act. Dialogue requires more rehearsal and more coverage. Don’t let a character say something when he can show us that very same thing and make it cool. It also saves on sound mixing.

-- Dialogue is never real. Don’t think that it is. When characters do say something it better be good, powerful (or subtle), clever or really funny. Dialogue should reveal character not push the plot forward. Write it. Rewrite it. Hold a rehearsal and see how awful it really is and rewrite it a couple of more times. Cut it down to the bone.

-- Be professional. Use proper script formatting software–either Scriptware, Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter. Go through and use spell check. Then go through by hand and double check. Have it read by someone else for mistakes. Don’t think that just because it’s low budget, that the rules of form and grammar don’t apply. They do – even more so than bigger films because everyone really depends on the script being ready quickly so they can do their jobs. If the script is hard to understand or so filled with mistakes – it will get tossed.

If your script breaks any of the above then you better be financing it yourself, because it won't get made.

And isn't that the point of a script in the first place?

14 comments:

Scott said...

Thanks for the info, I am finishing up a script that meets most of the criteria.

Two questions:

What is the average prive for a D2DVD and where should I send it?

Bill Cunningham said...

Studio D2DVDs generally try to get them in under $1.5M below the line, so you're looking at $2M total. That's why you see so many flicks made in Romania, etc...

Indies however can go anywhere from $500K down to $100K. Some even below that (Full Moon-Shadow).

The point is if it can't be made as it is, the script will be tossed. If it can be made as written and it's worth it - they may expand it. But probably not.

John Oak Dalton said...
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John Oak Dalton said...
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Bill Cunningham said...

Also think in terms of the budget. The script is usually 2.5% of the total paid out in steps.

To where you send them? That work you're going to have to do on your own...

John Oak Dalton said...

Great, great post!

John

Michael Leahy said...

A neat little refresher. Also liked your post about the different types of pulp other than the hard-boiled gangsters. We should be coming up with a new angle here in Europe. God knows there are enough stories here. Hmmmm. Let me think about that one.

Bill Cunningham said...

check out the Black Coat press link... JM and Randy are doing fantastic stuff. I'd love to go to europe to do a movie, and actually i'm working in that direction...

John Donald Carlucci said...

Some of the things you suggest contradict what the books say and I like it. Especially the comments concerning dialogue. I don't watch movies for real life. I watch movies for adventure. Real life is what you should be living. I want to see how the Shadow handles an arch-fiend, not how he deals with a lonely heart.

Dave Fogerson said...

You mention that d2dvd scripts should be no longer than 90 pages. What would be too few pages? I ask because I am working on a project that I can't seem to get past 80 pages without adding a lot of B.S. generic filler, which I don't want to do.

numballover said...

Wow. I have to say that is the simplest and most accurate description of how to make a good script that will actually get made I've seen.

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